We commenced this solemn commemoration of the Lord’s Passion with a short prayer. Allow me to repeat it now:

Remember your mercies, O Lord,
and with your eternal protection sanctify your servants,
for whom Christ your Son,
by the shedding of his Blood,
established the Paschal Mystery.

Mercy and protection. These are the two characteristics of God, we have prayed, that have made us holy through the passion of his Son. Mercy and protection. How have we seen these in Jesus, as he shed his blood for us?

Jesus died, that we might be forgiven. We did not deserve this; in justice he should not have done this. We are the guilty, not him.

But this is not what Jesus did on the cross. He did not take the path of justice, or leave us to what we deserved.

Instead, Jesus wrapped his protecting arms around us. He sheltered us from God’s wrath. He defended us from harm. He guarded our lives.

Jesus took onto himself all that should have led to our death. As Isaiah saw:

Ours were the sufferings he bore,
ours the sorrows he carried…
He was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.

This is mercy and protection writ large: to take onto oneself what properly belongs to another, for their sake. It is the path of forgiveness.

On him lies a punishment that brings us peace,
and through his wounds we are healed.

What we have just listened to is not the story of a criminal condemned to a disgraceful death for anything he did; we have heard – and are bound up in – the story of a king who went out to struggle unto death for our protection.

It is accomplished,” said Jesus; he accomplished it for us.